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Is SEO Part of the Web Design Process?

“When you’re designing a website, you need to consider the audience, the device, the browser, the aesthetics and the search engines.”

We all know that web designers can create beautiful, eye-catching, clever websites but what good is all that creativity if no one ever visits the site?

As SEO specialists we need to help the design community understand that SEO is part of the web design and development process and not something that’s fixed after the website is complete.

The truth about SEO and design

As a web designer, you’re probably focusing on User Experience, aesthetics, browser size and device restrictions – well now it’s time to add SEO to that list. Why? Well given that 80% of website traffic comes from search engines, if you don’t design for them, your client’s website is going to get little or no traffic.

The hard truth is that:

  • Many award-winning websites (featured on sites like Awwwards and theFwa) don’t rank on search engines. Don’t believe us? Read this;
  • Often SEO consultants have to redesign a large portion of the website to ensure it meets search engine requirements;
  • There won’t be any “user experience” if the website doesn’t get traffic;
  • Most searches online are for unbranded keywords.

Designer’s Listen Up, You Can’t Ignore SEO is available in several languages on Kate Toon’s Website

Your client and SEO

It’s important to understand that most clients will assume their website will rank for their chosen keywords. They want SEO even though they don’t really know what it is. They probably won’t realize it’s an additional service. So, it’s up to YOU to explain the ins and outs of Search Engine Optimization and how it will affect their design.

Typical client assumptions in the web design process

The client may say this:

“Business has been slow lately and I need to give it a boost – so I want a new website.”

But what they mean is this:

“I want more leads.”

So, if you go ahead and create a website with no regard for SEO: it won’t rank and there won’t be any leads – no matter how gorgeous it looks.
At the end of the day, websites are marketing tools that are used to create a business.

So, create a site that doesn’t generate leads and you’ve failed as a web designer.

Don’t panic!

Designing a great looking website that meets SEO requirements isn’t more expensive or difficult. It’s just about understanding the basic rules and acknowledging that the Search Engines are how customers find the website.

Recommended Web Architectures based on Client Type SEO - Copy

Basic SEO guidelines for web designers

These days, Search Engine Optimization falls into two main areas:

  • On-page SEO (30%) –web architecture, semantics, content and the way the site is coded;
  • Off-page SEO (70%)–sometimes known as link building or content marketing.

As a web designer, your focus should beOnpage SEO. Here are three great articles to get you started:

  • Site Architecture for SEO. Yes, I know this article is old but it is 100% true today
  • The Web Developers SEO Cheat Sheet 2013 Edition
  • Really advanced and awesome SEO stuff here: Visual Guide To Keyword Targeting Onpage Optimization

Know your client

Essentially there are three main client types, and how you design and build your site will depend on determining which category your client falls into.

1. I used to advertise on Yellow Pages, but now I want my website to show up in Google, Yahoo, and Bing for non-branded keywords.
(For example: Wedding planners, Locksmiths, Plumbers, Real estate agents, companies offering niche products or services, companies with generic brand names.)

Recommendation: Partner with an SEO agency or expert so they can focus on the site architecture and content and you can focus on the aesthetics. If your client really wants SEO, you need to work with the experts.

2. I want a creative site and I want to rank for my brand term.

(For example: brands that have a strong brand position already through other media: Nike, Adidas, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, etc.)

Recommendation: Although these kinds of clients may not want to rank under non-branded traffic, we still recommend asking them if they are interested. If they are interested you’ll have to design with some SEO requirements in mind.

3. Most of my business comes from referral and offline marketing

(For example: Well known lawyers or doctors and established local businesses that have already accomplished “branding” the traditional way.)

Recommendation: Although these kinds of clients seem to have solid marketing channels, they still might be interested in ranking under non-branded traffic. Our recommendation is to ask them questions like, “Are you interested in getting clients through Google or other search engines?” You might be surprised by their answers. If they do want to rank, SEO requirements will have to be incorporated in your design.

Recommended Web Architectures based on Client Type SEO - Copy

Client type 1: SEO and Design combined

SEO Gadget

The SEO Gadget looks great but includes the following SEO friendly elements:

  • Unique Title Tags and Meta Descriptions for each page with considered keyword targeting;
  • A keyword oriented architecture that helps the website rank under several different phrases;
  • A quick loading time;
  • A consistent address in the footer;
  • Fresh content on the homepage;
  • A content-rich blog.
SEOGAdget Homepage Screen SHot

Client type 2: Some SEO considered

These sites are often the hardest to produce. They target keywords and have an SEO friendly architecture, but also take account of aesthetics. is a great example where there is a relatively good architecture but also amazing graphics.

soft facade

Client type 3: None SEO constrained design

On the Mercedes Benz site, a one-page parallax scrolling design has been used that is less SEO friendly.


This is the kind of website that usually wins awards but won’t to rank for generic keywords, but since the brand is so well known, SEO is not really an issue.

SEO is part of the design process

So, next time you’re designing a site, consider SEO as part of the process, not an annoying afterthought. A website with a strong SEO foundation will prove a successful business tool for your client – and happy clients equal happy designers.

If you want to learn more about SEO for the web design process, check out these great resources:

This article was co-authored by Kate Toon and illustrations were done by Laure Favreau. Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO copywriter and SEO consultant with over 18 years’ experience. Laure Favreau is a Junior Web and Graphic Designer. She loves to learn new techniques about the design process.

SEO audit by TemplateMonster Service Center

Do you need your website be visible to your target audience in search engines and you don't know where to start? SEO audit is the first step to creating an online marketing strategy that really works. You will get the analysis and guidelines on how to implement the given recommendations within your website.

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48 responses to “Is SEO Part of the Web Design Process?”

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  10. Some customers think that the web design firm should do on-page and off-page SEO with just payment, the design of the site.

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  19. says:

    Carla Dawson your written article is very use full for every seo worker and developer . so keep writing and help us

  20. Digitallabz says:

    Web designs are a different process and SEO is a different process. But both are important to thrive in your business. because without a good web designing your site can’t rank on Google.

  21. Dustin Cruz says:

    I think SEO is not a part of web design but without good web design, you can’t rank your website and don’t grow your business online. Because of web designing is the first to step to attract your customers.

  22. Haris says:

    Definitely, without SEO you can’t rank any website on Google

  23. سنگ says:


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  24. Sam says:

    SEO and Web Design goes hand in hand. As seen in the comic, SEO requires a special architecture to properly work. Often, the client doesn’t know about SEO and ends up with a website which requires redoing of a bunch of portion for proper SEO.

  25. Paul Caprio says:

    Definitely, SEO and Web Design are an important part of each other. Without web designing, you can’t make an attractive or SEO friendly website. And without SEO you can’t rank any website on Google.

  26. Jake says:

    It is if you pay for it! I have thought about using 1 flat rate and including local SEO because a website without traffic is worthless. Great article! Thanks for sharing.

  27. Hi,
    i need a template seo friendly template, please tell me.. if template is available for anyone i will pay you for template.

    • Stacy Summers says:

      Hi Fatima!
      I’d recommend you to go to our site and choose a WordPress template on your taste. They’re all SEO friendly.

  28. Shohan says:

    Carla Dawson your written article is very use full for every seo worker and developer . so keep writing and help us

  29. Stephen Chong says:

    SEO and web design go together. A good looking website get more users attention and attract the eyeballs of the visitors. There are lot of SEO parameters which depend on website and site structure. so we can say today SEO is a part of web designing. Great post.

  30. Hussain says:

    SEO is actually a part of web design and one should select a company which does both web designing an SEO. Otherwise, just like the comic above represents, the cost of redoing will be high and it will be a big loss if you never asked for SEO while web designing.

  31. Anu Goyal says:

    Almost everyone thinks that once you have a website they are good to go, i think that it is important for the designers to clarify to their clients that SEO is a different process, its not easy to rank a website where the design is not made to be compatible for SEO. Both things are important in the process of making your company successful, in this generation digital technology is really a big part of being successful.

  32. iamfirst011 says:

    Indeed a great post. Thanks for sharing with us. I would love to share this post. keep posting.

  33. udit khanna says:

    SEO and web designing are not the same, Web designing means to design a website, and SEO is helpful for ranking the website, otherwise, the content is good, Thank you for the article.

  34. Dave says:

    There are probably plenty of website designs that are created each day without search engines in mind, and it’s definitely a super valuable thing to consider.

  35. Aldrin says:

    SEO is not part of web design process. But a knowledgeable web designer should know a thing about SEO so that they can come up with a design to perfectly fit for SEO if they want their site to rank on Google. I’m so glad you have elaborated it and you have delivered it on a detailed note. Thanks!

  36. It’s never too late to start optimizing your site and small business for higher rankings. That being said, your competitors will have a leg up if they’ve already begun

  37. Goliath Media Solutions says:

    I found this article to be a great read. I do believe that web design is important for the SEO Process because the website needs to be properly set up in a way that you may fully be able to optimize it for SEO. Some local SEO may not require such architecture but I do believe it helps.

  38. sehrish says:

    I am very grateful for this enlightening article. I am new to this issue, but for me, it elucidated several questions. Congratulations on your knowledge on the subject. Thank you very much.

  39. Jacob Garlick says:

    SEO is not a part of web design but if you want to rank your website in Google then You have to make your website according to SEO. SEO and Web Design is a different parts of internet marketing. And I am really glad to find your informative article about SEO and WEB Design.

  40. Peter says:

    NO, SEO is not a part of the web design process but we have to many changes in HTML code for SEO purpose, your designer also can do this for you if he has some knowledge about seo.

  41. Some customers think that the web design firm should do on-page and off-page SEO with just payment, the design of the site.

  42. Nicola Yap says:

    This is where hiring a full-service marketing agency has a big advantage – all aspects are kept in mind throughout every stage: designing, optimizing for keywords, planning for future content. The benefits of hiring a cohesive team can really make the difference in ROI. And that’s crucial if you are a small business looking to build your website. I like that you brought up how bigger brands can afford to go for 100% pure aesthetics and not SEO, because of the sheer amount of brand awareness they already hold. Great points.

  43. Michle Web says:

    Really blog information is very impressive about SEO and Web Design. This thing is true because if your website is not designed according to Google algorithm and SEO friendly, you can’t rank your site easily. Thank for giving your expensive time to write this blog.

  44. It is true that website designers can help the SEO process. They must consider the SEO when they are designing a website as the website is not going to get success without SEO. If the website has proper SEO, it will rank on the Google and it will get new probable customers as website visitors which is the ultimate goal of any website.